Intelligence: February 12, 2000

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Insiders at the National Security Agency report that the super-secret eavesdropping agency (which is actually bigger than the CIA) is on the verge of losing track of the world's pulse. It has kept track of the secret communications of dictators and terrorist masterminds since it was created in 1952, but the NSA has failed to keep up with technology. Knowing in general terms what the NSA can do, potential enemies now use underground fiber-optic cables which the NSA cannot read. (Indian scientists relied exclusively on fiber-optics, leaving the NSA with no information about impending nuclear tests.) Email, once thought to be the best source of information in history, is now of considerably less use due to its huge volume (and the NSA now lacks the computer power to sift it) and the fact that much of the most interesting information is encrypted with uncrackable codes. The NSA continues to rely on satellite eavesdroppers built for the cold war; its daily "catch" of foreign communications is increasingly less relevant to what is really going on. Insiders complain that the NSA is arrogant and hide-bound, unable to come to grips with the changing world and unwilling to admit that it can no longer do so. The agency has ignored the findings of a a Senate investigation two years ago that it is in desperate need of major restructuring and reorganization. The NSA's computer were down on 24-26 Jan, losing days of data and damaging the agency's continuously-updated world view.--Stephen V Cole

 


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